How to approach the media with a proactive story

Step 1:  Determine if the story is newsworthy

  • Divisions' provincial communications team can help with this.
  • Evaluate whether the story idea is truly newsworthy rather than just of interest to division members and better suited to a newsletter or section in the annual report.

Questions to ask in determining if a story is newsworthy:

  • Is something being launched or introduced?  If so, will it impact a large number of the people who may read/watch/listen to this news?
  • Is the idea about something that is of importance to the media's consumers? (such as improvements to the health care system in the community).
  • Is it timely?  Does the story relate to issues currently being covered in the news?

If "yes" to any of above, proceed to step two.

If "no" to all of above, do not approach the media.  There is a lot of competition for media attention and if a division becomes known for pitching solid stories, reporters are more likely to be receptive to future story ideas.  The opposite is also true.

Step 2:  Determine what kind of media to approach

If a story idea is solid, the division will then want to determine what kind of media to approach:

  • Print -- Daily, weekly or semi-weekly newspaper.  Most outlets also have online versions of their publications.  Visuals are helpful, but not required.  Interviews can be done by phone.
  • Radio -- News stories and local radio programs.  Visuals are not required and most interviews will be done by phone but spokespeople can be asked to come into the studio.
  • Television -- Strong visuals are required, making it the hardest kind of coverage to secure.

Step 3:  Decide how to approach reporters

  • Phone pitch -- Target your call to a specific reporter or groups of reporters and "pitch" the story.
    • Be brief (think elevator pitch).
    • Get to the point of why it's a story for them and why people should care.
  • News release -- The most common media relations tool is the news release, which summarizes all pertinent information in a standard format.
  • Media advisory -- If a division is hosting a newsworthy event with a strong visual component, it can craft a media advisory with the details and send it out several days before the event.

No matter what the approach, it is critical that you have someone available during business hours to do interviews with interested journalists.  It is wise to call and follow-up on both advisories and releases to ensure they are broguht to the media's attention.

If a division has any questions about approaching media or would like assistance, the provincial Divisions communications team can help.